Family Values

Short Story · Possible Cameo with Login


For this criminal case, a detective is called to the scene of a crime with no victim, no motive, and plenty of clues.

Emergency Services


Insurance underwriter Paul Abernathy, comes home late Friday night after a 60-hour work week. He looks forward to a weekend trip in the country with his wife and two children. What he discovers after opening the door to his mansion leads him to drop his satchel and dial emergency services.

911: “What is the nature of your emergency?”

“I believe my wife and children have been kidnapped.”

911: “I am sorry to hear that. How long have they been missing?”

“All day… or perhaps since last night.”

911: “May I confirm your name and location?”

“My name is Paul Abernathy. I live at 5847 Brentwood Way.”

911: “Are there any signs of forced entry, Mr. Abernathy?”

“Not that I can tell.”

911: “I have dispatched the police. Can I ask you to exit the home for your safety and meet them outside?”

“Okay, I’m back outside.”

911: “Great, Mr. Abernathy. What evidence leads you to believe your family was kidnapped?”

“I hear the sirens. The police are here now.”

911: “Thank you, Mr. Abernathy. Please cooperate with the officers on scene.”


Two officers approach the visibly shaken Mr. Abernathy while two others go inside the home to secure the premises.

“I am Officer Frank Jacobs. While other officers make certain the home is safe to enter, may I see some identification please?”

“Here’s my driver’s license.”

“Is this your home, Mr… Paul Abernathy?”

“Of course it is. The address is on my driver’s license!”

“Just checking, sir. We have no way of knowing whether you are separated or divorced.”

“I’m sorry. I live here with my family,” says Paul.

“When was the last time you saw your family, Mr. Abernathy?”

“Yesterday evening. We watched a movie together in the family room. They all went to bed while I left for work right afterwards.”

Motioning from a distance on the porch, another officer calls out, “Frank, come take a look at this.”

“Mr. Abernathy, please wait here with my partner.”


At dusk, the silhouette of Detective Megan Anthony steps out of her dark vehicle twirling a toothpick in a 180-degree loop with her tongue. She looks over the massive home, illuminated from its interior lights, before entering.

Officers find no one else inside, nor any sign of forced entry. What they discover in each bedroom is curious. On each pillow is a crisp dollar bill.

Officer Jacobs looks into Detective Anthony’s steely gray eyes and expresses a somber thought. “Do you think the abductors may have left the money for services rendered?”

“I am not ruling out any untoward motives but I would expect more signs of struggle in a case of sexual abuse.”

Detective Anthony returns outdoors to ask Mr. Abernathy if he modified the crime scene.

“My name is Detective Megan Anthony. Please tell me when you first noticed your family was missing.”

“This evening at about 7:35 PM, just before phoning 911.”

“Is the home exactly as you found it, or did you rearrange anything?”

“All I did was set my briefcase down, remove my overcoat, call out to my family, visit each room, dial my wife, whose phone went to voicemail, and then call 911.”

Jotting down notes, Detective Anthony continues, “I will get a copy of that 911 call transcript. Have you and your wife had any recent arguments that might make her want to leave?”

“No, our relationship is solid. She is the love of my life.”

“That’s helpful to know. May I ask, what is your line of business?”

“I am an insurance underwriter for Capital Insurance Company.”

“For how long have you been employed there?”

“Ten… ten years.”

“You are doing well. Your answers will help us find your family. Have you received any threats or demands in conjunction with your personal or professional life?”

“No. Well, not recently.”

“So there was some sort of threat. How long has it been?”

“Maybe a year and a half ago.”

“What was the nature of the communication at the time?”

“An email was not directed to me. It was forwarded from an irate customer who was unhappy with his insurance settlement. I checked the policy and the payout was according to the agreement.”

“I will need to see a copy of that when you have a chance. The first few days of any abduction are most crucial. Can you tell me why someone might leave money on your family’s pillows?

“I have no idea.”


“Let’s go inside as you walk me through the bedrooms,” invites Detective Anthony.

In the master bedroom, there is a crisp $100 bill on one pillow. The next bedroom of the teen, has a $20 bill on the pillow. In the bedroom of the youngest child, there is a $10 bill on the pillow.

“It seems to me that someone is communicating a message to you. What do you make of the different denominations?”

“Could it indicate a ransom… perhaps a hundred thousand dollars for my wife, twenty thousand for my son and ten thousand for my daughter?”

“Do you feel those ratios are accurate?”

“Well, no. I value each family member equally.”

“Outside, you said that you have not received a ransom demand. I agree that someone is placing a relative value on your family members. But the message might be more personal. Perhaps it relates to your work as an insurance underwriter.”

“I’m so stressed I can’t think of how.”

“Give it some more thought. Right now I need you to get a current photo of each missing person, their full name, age, and a list of friends for each of them. Also, get me a copy of that email complaint.

“While you do that, I will have my men dust for fingerprints, coordinate a search, and get setup for a possible call from the abductors.”

“Okay, detective.”

Officers collect many fingerprints—likely from family members. There are no signs of foul play.

Detective Megan Anthony speaks to Officer Frank Jacobs. “What do you make of this? There is no sign of forced entry, no struggle, and no ransom note.”

Officer Jacobs weighs in, “They apparently let their abductors in and left willingly. Either that or the husband has them holdup someplace to collect insurance money.”

“Let’s not jump to that conclusion yet,” cautions Megan. “Their disabling the alarm and willingly leaving with abductors is a valid theory.”

Mr. Abernathy approaches Detective Megan Anthony with the requested information.

“Thank you Mr. Abernathy. Do your children also have mobile phones?”

“Yes, they are on them constantly. I have dialed them and they go straight to voicemail. There is no response to text messages either.”

“My officers found these phones turned off. Do they belong to your family?”

“Yes, that’s them!” the father shouts.

“That explains the lack of communication. Is your wife’s car here?”

“I didn’t see it in the driveway. Let me check the garage.”

“Officer Jacobs will go with you.”

They return to inform Detective Megan Anthony that his wife’s car is here. As they review home security footage, they see the Abernathy family leaving the home and willingly getting into the back of a black limousine without license plates.

“Have you ever sent a limousine for your family?” asks the detective.

“Yes, occasionally we use them.”

“Get me the contact information for the service you use. It’s going to be a long night,” the detective somberly responds.

Share Your Rating